New bill would increase free access to research

Libraries cheer passage of strong open access legislation in U.S. Senate.

library-researchPublic access to federally-funded research took one move forward with the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ vote to support the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2015 (FASTR).

The legislation would accelerate scientific discovery and fuel innovation by making articles reporting on publicly-funded scientific research freely accessible online for anyone to read and build upon.

FASTR would require federal departments and agencies with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million to develop a policy to ensure that researchers submit an electronic copy of the final manuscript accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

(Next page: More highlights of the proposed bill)


Capella U., SAS launch MS in analytics program

New analytics degree aims to confront persistent skills gap.

analytics-MSFacing a critical skills gap in data and analytics, the U.S. is hungry for graduate-level degree programs to meet snowballing demand.

Capella University is teaming with analytics software and services provider SAS to launch a new Master of Science in Analytics degree program.

Capella’s online program aims to accommodate more students and busy schedules.

According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the supply of data is exploding, and demand for analytical talent could be 50 to 60 percent higher than the projected supply by 2018.

(Next page: Details about the new analytics degree)


The best strategy for managing disruptive innovation in higher ed

A tale of two disruptive innovation implementation case studies provides best practices for interested institutions.

disruptive-innovation-studyIf a traditional college or university wants success for its implementation of a disruptive innovation, make sure that it’s not subject to the same guidelines and strategies currently in place.

In other words, disruptive innovation success means implementation via an autonomous subunit.

This finding is part of an analysis of two university case studies that tried to successfully integrate the disruptive innovation known as “work-focused learning,” which (in the UK especially), is a learning model offered to undergraduate students who want to earn an undergrad degree in three years but are unable to stop working full or part-time and cannot obtain that degree through conventional routes.

At one university, the model of work-focused learning was initially an autonomous subunit of the institution’s traditional mission and management. At the other university, work-focused learning was integrated as part of the institution’s traditional teaching mission and model.

“When planning for curriculum and business model change in universities, it is useful to be able to provide an analysis of proposed curriculum developments to distinguish those that are incremental and sustaining in nature from those which are disruptive innovations,” explain the study’s authors—Stephen Powell, a researcher for CELT at Manchester Metropolitan University; Bill Olivier, professor of Educational Technology at IEC, University of Bolton, IEC; and Li Yuan, senior researcher at University of Bolton.

After an institution identifies which innovation are truly disruptive, it’s critical, continue the authors, that research is conducted to determine “to what extent do they have the structures and processes in place to successfully respond to, or possible initiate, disruptive innovations,” since these innovations often “place new demands on staff, budgets and organizational models. These include changes to established ways of teaching, professional development activities, research, scholarly practice, IT systems, decision-making and administrative processes. Any of these may provoke conflict with particular interest groups.”

(Next page: The 2 case studies; key takeaways)


Another large university drops ACT, SAT requirements

GW is the latest to make standardized test results optional for many applicants.

SAT-ACTThe George Washington University (GW) announced that most undergraduate applicants will no longer be required to submit SAT or ACT scores as of August 1.

High school coursework and grades will remain the most important criteria, GW officials said, along with writing skills, recommendations, and involvement in school and community. Students applying to GW for the 2016-2017 school year will be able to choose whether or not they submit their standardized test scores along with their application.

GW’s Task Force on Access and Success reviewed the role that test scores play in predicting how students will perform at the university, and their findings revealed that a student’s high school record, in particular his or her GAP, can be an accurate predictor. Those findings led to the “test-optional” policy recommendation.

(Next page: University officials comment on the new policy)


Disruptive innovations in higher ed emerging from outside mainstream

Thought-leader discusses the innovations derived by the emergence of online learning, and what it means for higher education.

Copyright: The Christensen Institute.

Copyright: The Christensen Institute.

[Recently] I had the opportunity to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to explore the barriers to, and opportunities for, innovation. My full written testimony is here.

In my remarks, I clarified what disruptive innovation is, as the theory is all too often misunderstood and misapplied. I explained that disruptive innovations carry four rules worth noting. They typically start by serving nonconsumers outside of the mainstream—areas where the alternative is literally nothing at all. They tend to be simpler than existing services, so the elite and the sector’s leading organizations tend to dismiss them. Accordingly, they both redefine the notion of what is quality and performance, and they don’t fit neatly into existing regulatory structures. Third, incumbent organizations cannot successfully adopt them within their core operations. And finally, they predictably and reliably improve over time to tackle more complex problems to transform a sector into one that is more affordable and accessible.

In education, online learning is the first disruptive innovation since the advent of the printing press. Combined with competency-based learning—in which students progress upon true mastery of their learning, not because of an arbitrary time-based measure— there is a big opportunity to transform our higher education system into a more affordable, student-centered one that is able to serve many more students.

True to form, we are seeing a variety of potentially disruptive organizations powered by online learning emerge from outside traditional higher education. These upstarts are reaching those students who need more education but for reasons having to do with convenience and accessibility, simplicity, and cost, are, at that point in their lives, nonconsumers of traditional higher education. The organizations are generally simpler, more focused institutions than our traditional colleges and universities and do not look like traditional higher education; they do not have four- or even two-year programs, they lack breadth, they do not do academic research, and they don’t have grassy green quads. Accordingly, the existing regulatory structures do not know how to judge them. Even as many of our traditional institutions of higher education have paid lip service to the innovations these new entities are unlocking, by and large they have not harnessed their disruptive potential themselves. And although they are starting by solving simple problems, we can predict with certainty that this upstart sector as a whole will improve to solve more complex problems and further blur the lines around what is higher education.

Exciting innovations are emerging from colleges and universities using online, competency-based learning, but given that President Paul LeBlanc of Southern New Hampshire University was testifying about that sector, I focused my remarks on three other groups of organizations that are, in classic disruptive fashion, emerging from the fringe outside of traditional colleges and universities.

(Next page: Coding bootcamps; skilling-up)


Millions to advance personalized learning in higher education

Acrobatiq secures $9.75 million in Series A funding; supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

personalized-funding-platformAcrobatiq, a provider in the rapidly growing adaptive learning market, announced the successful completion of a $9.75 million Series A round of funding. The funding will support the growth of the Company’s next-generation adaptive learning and analytics platform, as well as sales and marketing initiatives. Acrobatiq’s adaptive courseware and platform have roots in twelve years of research from Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative, using cognitive and learning sciences research to improve student outcomes.

Participants in the round included Draper Triangle Ventures, Hearst Ventures, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They join existing investor Carnegie Innovations, a subsidiary of Carnegie Mellon.

“Low income and underserved postsecondary students are balancing jobs, families and other priorities, and personalized learning is a tool that empowers these students to complete their degree or credential,” said Jason Palmer, Deputy Director of Postsecondary Success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are thrilled to partner with Acrobatiq on expanding adaptive courseware to help these students access higher education and improve their odds of success.”

“Acrobatiq is filling a critical need in higher education that to this point has vexed the nation – the ability to provide truly personalized high-quality education at a cost that makes it accessible to all students who seek it,” said Jay Katarincic, Managing Director, Draper Triangle Ventures. “Acrobatiq brings a unique combination of groundbreaking research in online learning, learner-centered adaptive courseware, and a technology platform that can scale to meet the individual learning needs of millions of students. Our investment is a testament to Acrobatiq’s ability to change the face of higher education in the U.S.”

(Next page: An innovative approach to optimizing learning)


Partnership to evaluate impact of active learning on student outcomes

Echo360 selected for its proven track record in increasing student engagement and outcomes in over 650 schools.

student-outcomes-acceleratorThe Jefferson Education Accelerator (JEA) announced today the selection of teaching and learning platform Echo360 as the first company partner for JEA, which helps to evaluate and scale education solutions that can make demonstrable impacts on student learning outcomes.

“Echo360 is an excellent example of the type of company JEA intends to support,” said Bart Epstein, Founding CEO of Jefferson Education Accelerator. “Echo360 is already used by nearly 3 million students in 8,000 classrooms at 650 higher education schools across 30 countries. Our review of its internal data shows strong evidence of significant impact on student engagement and outcomes. They have integrated a unique combination of teaching tools in a way that makes scaling potentially much easier. Through formal research and engagement with faculty, students, and administrators, JEA seeks to further document, validate, and communicate the impact of Echo360’s platform.”

The expansion of mobile computing and ubiquity of broadband on campus is enabling college and university leaders to capture better information and insight into student behavior than ever before, during and after large lectures. Preliminary research at the University of Michigan and other leading institutions shows that Echo360’s platform provides critical information and tools to improve student engagement and achievement.

“We know that traditional lectures present a significant challenge for institutions grappling with completion rates and student engagement. Echo360 already shows strong evidence of supporting faculty and engaging students,” said Robert Pianta, Ph.D., Dean of University of Virginia Curry School of Education and Chairman of the Board of JEA. “At UVA, we’re excited to further explore how technology like theirs can help faculty and institutional leaders improve actual student success.”

Backed by Steve Case’s Revolution Growth Fund, the platform makes it easy for students to ask questions anonymously during class, follow along with the lecture and take notes, or revisit the lecture and class discussion after class. Data from Echo360’s platform help faculty support every student, and can be used real time to inform institutional analytics efforts.

“As a company founded by academics, research is at our core. Faculty tell us that our platform enables them to understand student challenges – and intervene early,” said Echo360 CEO Fred Singer. “Many of our university partners conduct their own research studies and we are looking forward to working with JEA to put our evidence to the test in a way that can provide valuable data to inform big data and predictive analytics efforts across institutions.”

JEA selects only companies that are well past the startup stage, are growingly rapidly, and seek further external validation of their work. JEA provides access to expertise, investment capital, and the opportunity to conduct efficacy studies with leading researchers and practitioners nationwide. Since launching in February, JEA has evaluated hundreds of growing ed tech companies that have expressed interest in being part of JEA’s work, and will announce additional partners this summer.

“Unlike traditional accelerators, JEA works with companies and executive teams–who have already demonstrated success–over multi-year engagements to support their long-term growth,” said Brien C. Walton, JEA Founding Chief Investment Officer. “Echo360 is a classic growth stage company past their Series C fund raise with impressive traction and internal evidence of their impact. They stand out as a company with unique technology that can scale solutions that are improving student outcomes.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


$5M seed portfolio will address higher education challenges

Early stage fund stems critical gap in education markets.

higher-educationUniversity Ventures, an investment firm focused solely on higher education, announced today an allocation to a $5 million seed portfolio to support early-stage education technologies that address existing and emerging challenges in higher education and workforce development.

Leveraging the firm’s expertise in education, the investments aim to close a growing gap in education markets by helping the most promising solutions reach the market and scale.

“There is no shortage of opportunities to invest in early-stage companies, but many investors unfamiliar with education end up funding new technologies that don’t address the real pain points for institutions, students or employers,” said Ryan Craig, Managing Director of University Ventures. “Our thesis-based approach has provided insight into the kinds of technologies universities need and can adopt, as well as a terrific pipeline of early-stage companies seeking to work with us.”

(Next page: Initial fund investments)